Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed team is making steady progress with assembling its brand-new Dallara DW12 chassis for a planned debut at IndyCar’s season opener in St. Petersburg.
Despite missing last week’s NTT IndyCar Series Spring Training open test at Circuit of The Americas, Julian says DragonSpeed is on target to shake the No. 85 Chevy down at Sebring on March 4, then head north to St. Pete for the March 8-10 event where rookie driver Ben Hanley will turn his first official laps in the car.
“We’re a little behind where we wanted to be when we started three months ago, but at the same time, we’re lucky to have tremendous help from the people over at Chevy and IndyCar and obviously the Dallara group,” he told RACER.
“There’s no real sleepless nights. Everybody’s calm. Everybody’s having fun doing it. Methodically, we’re doing it the right way, the way we know how to do it. I’m very effusive about my crew; they come from very diverse backgrounds. Guys are from recent Formula 1 experience through last year to pure sports car guys. It’s a good mix, and we’ll get everything ready to stop and test on our way to St. Pete.”
Keeping the 34-year-old Hanley distracted until the Sebring test could be Julian’s biggest problem at the moment.
“He’s getting a little annoying, to be honest,” the former driver said with a laugh. “’When are we going testing? When we going testing?’ Every day. Which is normal — of course, I was one of them (drivers) once upon a time. He’s about to make an Indy car debut, and he’s a kid at heart and chomping at the bit, but he’s bugging the hell out of me!”
Having attended Spring Training as a spectator, Julian found value in observing the presentation of teams DragonSpeed will compete against for the first time.
“It was hugely important for us to get out there, for our operation, and see everything up close without being busy with running our own car,” he said. “We parked, walked through the first garage, which was Penske, and I said, ‘Great. So we’re looking at the nicest stuff.’
“But the really refreshing thing, that fills me with confidence, is there’s not this huge normal top-tier racing discrepancy between the have and the have-nots. At least trackside. You go to the smallest team, and essentially, it’s a different style timing stand, maybe a little older fuel rig, but other than that, it’s about the people. And I like that. So that gave us a lot of confidence as we’re a small team. We put all our money into the people and the car. I breathe a little easier after watching the other teams work, and seeing the similarities between what we already do.”
Julian and his championship-winning sports car team can’t wait to get their five-race IndyCar debut under way.
“I spent all these years trying to be an Indy car driver, then I watched from a distance, hoping I can bring a team to Indy car,” he said. “You start to build up in your mind what you think it’s going to be like, and what people are doing there, because it’s beyond what you know is normal. And it was pleasant to see at COTA that it was normal, and it felt normal. Of course, we don’t know all the tricks. We need to learn a lot. We’re going to get spanked at the beginning. But the reality is, it inspired a bit of confidence, and all anyone here wants to do is get the car finished and stop the talking and start the racing.”